The Big Lift announces Inspiring Summers program partners, benefiting low-income San Mateo County children


SVCF's Jessica Mihaly with Dr. John King, Jr., acting secretary of education at the U.S. Department of Education at the Re(a)d Zone's celebratory event Jan. 31, 2016.

The Big Lift, one of the signature initiatives of SVCF’s Center for Early Learning, announced on Jan. 31 that it will invest $3.75 million over the next two years in its Inspiring Summers program for low-income children in San Mateo County. The announcement was made at a celebratory event sponsored by the Re(a)d Zone, a signature initiative of the 50 Fund, the legacy philanthropic fund of the Super Bowl 50 Host Committee.

In keeping with the collaborative spirit of The Big Lift, Inspiring Summers will be implemented by The Big Lift’s first cohort of school districts in partnership with the San Mateo County Library, the Bay Area Discovery Museum’s Center for Childhood Creativity and BELL, a nonprofit that for more than  20 years has provided high-quality, evidence-based summer programs.

The Inspiring Summers program will serve 2,750 children, beginning with those in the first cohort of Big Lift school districts: Jefferson Elementary, Cabrillo Unified, La Honda Pescadero Unified and South San Francisco Unified. The program will expand to additional districts in the program’s second year.

San Mateo County is in the heart of Silicon Valley, one of the nation’s wealthiest regions. Yet one-in-five households in the county earns less than $35,000. Nearly three-quarters of Latino, African American and Pacific Islander children aren’t reading at grade level by third grade. The Big Lift is aimed at fundamentally changing the narrative for low-income children from one of loss to one of gain. Its comprehensive approach integrates high-quality preschool, addresses chronic absence, engages families and provides inspiring summer learning opportunities that enable children to maintain academic and developmental gains beyond the school year.

A significant percentage of the achievement gap between lower- and higher-income students can be explained by unequal access to high-quality summer learning opportunities. When that afternoon bell rings on the last day of school, affluent kids fan out into a myriad of science, art and sports camps or trips to new places with their families, keeping their minds and bodies engaged. Lower income kids are more likely to be home with few options to expand their horizons. Not surprisingly, this opportunity gap quickly translates into an achievement gap. Low-income kids lose an average of more than two months in reading proficiency in the summer months while their higher income peers sustain the gains made over the school year. By the end of fifth grade, disadvantaged children are nearly three grade equivalents behind their more affluent peers, a gap from which it is very hard to recover.

The Big Lift Inspiring Summers program will blend literacy and STEM instruction with a focus on innovation, hands-on activities, technology and enrichment.  BELL and the San Mateo County Library will train and equip school leaders and teachers to engage students and parents. The full-day program will offer three nutritious meals a day and will be designed to make learning fun and rewarding for students. 

Launched in 2012, The Big Lift is a collective impact model of over 400 organizations lead collaboratively by the San Mateo County Office of Education, Silicon Valley Community Foundation and the County of San Mateo. The Big Lift has raised $33 million from the County of San Mateo, the Social Innovation Fund, W. K. Kellogg Foundation,, Silicon Valley Social Venture Fund, The United Way of The Bay Area and other generous funders.